February 12, 2019 at 9:29 am #81765
Minor League Baseball does different farm system rankings, starting by position players vs. pitchers. They are not particularly optimistic about the Cardinals’ position players, putting them 18th of 30. I had considered it a strength.
I have never heard of the rater, Kelsie Heneghan. Anyone familiar with her background/other work?
Minor League Baseball's position player farm system rankings have the #stlcards just 18th.
— Brian Walton (@B_Walton) February 12, 2019February 20, 2019 at 2:31 pm #82334
Here is the other half. Fernandez is the only pitcher mentioned who has not already at least reached Memphis.
Good news but with caution between the lines in these pitching-only farm system rankings. #stlcards place 10th in MiLB, but every pitcher named except one has already reached Triple-A and a number are in MLB. https://t.co/VgGKw5HJap
— Brian Walton (@B_Walton) February 20, 2019February 20, 2019 at 3:02 pm #82340
Seems a little high for the pitching and low for the hitting. Of course, if Reyes hits his ceiling, that alone could tilt the scale.February 20, 2019 at 4:10 pm #82352
That is what I thought, too. They seemed to put more weight on Triple-A than the entire system, which may be why. Not to harp on the same point I’ve often made before, but we have one person here trying to rate 30 farm systems down to both hitting and pitching – 60 different in-depth assessments encompassing hundreds and hundreds of individual players. Not an easy job by any stretch, so I get (but don’t agree with) the perceived focus being on those players closest to the majors.February 20, 2019 at 4:26 pm #82356
It would be interesting to see if there was a composite rating of all the sites like this one that heavily cover individual teams and see how they might cross over. I’m sure all fans at least slightly overrate their own prospects, but some may more than others. It certainly would be tough for any one writer or few writers to get a full list accurately covering all teams’ prospects.February 20, 2019 at 4:40 pm #82357
I do an annual analysis of how the Cards and NL Central teams farm systems stack up against each other. The sources don’t rate pitching vs. hitting (other than Baseball HQ, whose series ran here recently). I actually have the article almost done except I am waiting for BP to publish their organizational rankings. They are a week later so far than they told me they would be announced. Asking them again…February 20, 2019 at 5:11 pm #82359
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I realize a lot of internet media rely on clicks to generate ad revenue and these types of articles seem to be reliable drivers of traffic, but I feel the exercise itself is too large an undertaking for one person to do both well and without compromising quality in some way. Not to mention there could be tremendous variability in knowledge and experience between writers who compile these rankings and the reader may not know whether the writer’s work is reliable or not.
To be fair, most of the more prominent analysts seem to form a rough consensus about known prospects. But even then, there are certain organizations that tend to outperform consensus projections on their prospects pretty routinely, the Cardinals being one of them. So while the consensus says that the Cardinals system is middle of the pack, I expect we will actually realize better mlb production from our system than the organizations we are grouped with due to our track record of doing just that. At the end of the day, these articles are more about entertainment before the season starts.February 21, 2019 at 5:16 am #82364
“But even then, there are certain organizations that tend to outperform consensus projections on their prospects pretty routinely, the Cardinals being one of them. So while the consensus says that the Cardinals system is middle of the pack, I expect we will actually realize better mlb production from our system than the organizations we are grouped with due to our track record of doing just that.”
Exactly. But with one tiny tweak. I would modify “track record” to “20-year track record.”
Never a top 100 prospect: Coco Crisp, Yadi Molina, Jack Wilson, Dan Haren, David Freese, Allen Craig, Lance Lynn, Jon Jay, Tommy Pham, Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, Aledmys Diaz, Jordan Hicks, Randal Grichuk, and Harrison Bader. Dakota Hudson made Baseball America’s top 100, but no one else’s.
And the thing is, that laundry list of overlooked guys still doesn’t nearly tell the entire story. It’s the degree to which most of them were underrated — that’s what stands out. Solid regulars who were barely supposed to play in the majors; stars who weren’t supposed to start. And then there’s Albert Pujols, who should have been an easy top 10-12 overall prospect based on his one supremely dominant minor league season (at the plate and in the field, by the way). But he couldn’t scratch the top 40.
So anyway. The Cardinals actually have the 6th-best collection of minor league talent right now.
1) San Diego
8) White Sox
9) & 10) Astros and Dodgers in some order, what do we care, we’re Cardinal fans
The Birds are top 3 in position players and perhaps 15-18 in pitching. Maybe lower. Probably more like 18th to 20th come to think of it. Other than Reyes and Hudson, there may not be another minor league arm who’s ever more than a setup man or 5th starter. And we all know how risky Reyes is.
But now the good news. Across all of pro baseball there are 29 current minor league position players who posted at least a 150 wRC+ in 2018 while young for their level of competition. The Cards have seven and no other organization can claim more than two. Moreover, beyond that magnificent seven the Cards saw Leandro Cedeno log a 1.000 OPS as a teenager in the Appy League, Adanson Cruz post a 145 wRC+ in the DSL, and Tyler O’Neill blister AAA with a wRC+ of 170 at age 22/23. (I mention O’Neill since some folks do consider him still a prospect.)
And then there’s Ramon Urias and Andrew Knizner, who according to the ZiPS computer model are both already MLB league-average regulars, if given the opportunity. So let’s just say there’s a wealth of position player talent. Upper and lower minors.
As Brian Walton and others have quite rightly pointed out before, the pitching is fairly troubling below Triple-A, however. I hate to see any baseball team “draft for need” — at least in the first 4-6 rounds — but the Birds should find some way to replenish the pitching at the lower levels, and fast. Maybe draft, maybe trade, but some way.February 21, 2019 at 7:20 am #82366
History is cool, but the present situation is really what matters most. The Cards appear to be a middle of the pack system again, still.February 21, 2019 at 8:16 am #82369
History is cool, but the present situation is really what matters most. The Cards appear to be a middle of the pack system again, still.
While I agree that the current situation matters the most, perhaps it’s either a flaw in the way raters project the Cardinal prospects or something in the Cards’ development program that causes them to consistently produce better results than expected. It’s ok to discuss that, and Bob made a good list of players that possibly make the points above.February 21, 2019 at 8:30 am #82377
The good raters should do self-analysis afterward and adjust their ranking criteria and formulas on what they learn.
For members, I just posted my annual analysis of the system-wide rankings from five top national raters, including the last decade of history. Over time, Baseball America and John Sickels have been highest on the Cardinals, with Baseball Prospectus least optimistic, FWIW.February 21, 2019 at 9:42 am #82379
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This is great info Brian. I appreciate you putting it together. There is no doubt that 2017 really hurt us. I think 2016 hurt us also considering our top pick from that year is floundering. 2018 was a very good class plus we have had some nice pickups in the international draft. I am optimistic about the future since we can finally spend more internationally this year.
By the way, I think the White Sox have the 2nd best minor league system behind San Diego. I would probably go with Tampa, Atlanta, and Toronto to round out the top 5.February 21, 2019 at 11:50 am #82397
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This article relates the downward spiral of our farm system (in so many words), who is responsible for that? If you’re thinking that 3 years without making the post-season is unacceptable, right now things seem bleaker for the future. The team will need to go heavy into the free agent market when the cupboard is nearly bare of highly promising prospects. That is not one of Mozeliak’s fortes.
I have been saying right along that the ’17 non-draft was going to have a significant effect on the system but that theory was pooh-poohed right here regarding that topic. Very poor 1st round selections in ’15 and ’16 have also been pointed out.
I’m telling you that Mozeliak seems to be losing a grip on some of the “team first” culture that the organization has been known for. Where is the accountability? Mozeliak seems to have no clue on how to rectify some of the problems we will soon be facing. And his handling of the Cardinals present problems has to be questionable at best.
Maybe signing Harper for ten years will help us out, but the RF spot is already promised to one of his other fiascoes. Time for a change upstairs. And don’t tell me about his past resume… that’s old history. The direction of this club needs to be changed, now.February 21, 2019 at 12:26 pm #82401
I get that the boss is ultimately responsible, but wouldn’t your criticism be more appropriately be directed at the scouting director – the guy who makes the draft selections – or the international director, who is in charge of overseas signings, or the farm director, whose staff develops the players?
When you are swinging the hammer at Mo, everything must look like a nail.February 22, 2019 at 12:12 am #82415
“History is cool, but the present situation is really what matters most. The Cards appear to be a middle of the pack system again, still.”
If you want to discard the overlooked players from 12 or 15 or 20 years back, Brian, I won’t put up an argument. Guys like Crisp and Pujols and Haren and Molina are admittedly really only an indictment of Baseball America, since the other national voices didn’t truly exist until more recently.
But speaking of recently, I believe that very recent history solidly supports my contention that St. Louis prospects remain almost annually underrated — and sometimes radically so. It’s all a matter of reputation versus reality.
If the reality is that the Cards have actually been a middle-of-the-pack system, every year, year after year, for the past 5 years, then we would expect rather middling results from our rookies at the MLB level.
Per Fangraphs, these were the top 5 N.L. teams for rookie position player WAR in 2018:
1) CARDS 4.1 WAR
T1) Braves 4.1
3) Nationals 3.7
4) Phils 1.8
5) Padres 1.7
And now the top 5 for rookie pitching WAR in 2018:
1) CARDS 4.5 WAR
2) Braves 4.2
3) Padres 4.1
4) Giants 3.8
5) Dodgers 3.7
So we see that rather than middle of the pack, those supposedly so-so St. Louis prospects led in overall rookie WAR, nudging out the Braves 8.6 WAR to 8.3 WAR. Then there was a gap to the Padres at #3, then another gap to the Dodgers at #4.
With their 8.6 rookie WAR, the Cards totaled more than twice as much rookie WAR as the Cubs, Reds, Pirates, and Brewers put together (4.1 WAR total). A middling farm system cannot do that.
If we go back a year to 2017, the Cards were 2nd in the N.L. in rookie position player WAR. Go back yet another year, and they were 3rd in the N.L.. So three straight years at or near the top. They are the only team to be top 3 in each of the past three seasons. That’s the reality, regardless of reputation.
As for pitchers, in 2017 the rookie Birds were only 9th in WAR — but they were 1st in ERA.
In 2016 the Redbird rookie hurlers were 4th in WAR, but led in FIP. So for three straight years, both pitchers and hitters have produced quality, quantity, or both. The Cardinal draft & development people are doing a bangup job, no matter what Law or Mayo or Callis or some poor misguided fool at Baseball Prospectus or Fangraphs has to say about the matter. The numbers tell the tale.
Now, I hasten to add that three years ago I agreed with the national consensus. I did, and said so! The Cards really did have a middling farm system. Everyone said they were ranked between 14th and 19th or so, and I concurred. But then 2016 happened. In 2016 (1)the Cards drafted very well, (2)many players and pitchers already in the system had impressive breakthroughs, (3)the pitchers stayed uniformly healthy (or nearly so anyway), (4)the organization graduated very little talent to the majors, and finally (5)the Cards invested internationally like they’d never done before.
In reality, this vaulted the team into the 5-7 range among all farm systems. And how could it not? Why the national voices curled up into a fetal ball of denial at the time is beyond me. Of the above five points, only the first could be disputed at all, back then. The rest are and were straightforward statements of fact.
And in reality that’s where they’ve remained ever since, among the top 15-25% of farm systems. Which is of course why they’ve had such impressive results from their rookies over the past three seasons, and particularly in 2018.
“While I agree that the current situation matters the most, perhaps it’s either a flaw in the way raters project the Cardinal prospects or something in the Cards’ development program that causes them to consistently produce better results than expected. It’s ok to discuss that, and Bob made a good list of players that possibly make the points above.”
The Cardinals have consistently produced major league results that aligned with their minor league performances. That’s all. Nothing fancy. But their minor league performances have frequently been discounted or dismissed outright by the national prospect raters, considerably more so than similar hitters and pitchers from other organizations. I’m not a licensed psychiatrist, so I can’t tell you what pesky mental block is happening at Fangraphs or Baseball Prospectus or MLB Pipeline or anywhere else. But minor league performance is now, has always been, and will always be the single best predictor of major league performance — once the entirety of the performance is taken into consideration and analyzed dispassionately. That’s the reality, regardless of reputations.
So when a Redbird performs spectacularly well in the minors but is dismissed by the national voices, believe in the player and performance not the pundit. Only one of them is full of crap.February 22, 2019 at 1:58 am #82494
Sorry, forgot to mention the final rookie WAR tally, top 5 from 2016-2018, all of MLB, per Fangraphs.
1) Dodgers 25.7 WAR
2) Yankees 24.7
3) CARDS 23.2
4) Tampa 17.4
5) Rockies 15.7
Even though Milwaukee would have been next on the list with an excellent 15.5 WAR, the Brewers plus the Cubs, Bucs, and Reds combined for just 24.7 WAR over the three seasons. As for the Cards, elite results can’t come from middle of the pack farm systems, folks. And 3rd-best in baseball looks pretty elite to me.February 22, 2019 at 7:09 am #82501
I suspect it is the quantity vs. top quality argument. Though last season, both Bader and Flaherty had a good impact, they received only a few token Rookie of the Year votes, mostly from StL voters.
In your three-year example just above, the main reason the Dodgers are on top is they had 2 of the 3 NL ROYs in Seager and Bellinger and last year, Buehler came in third. He might end up being the best of the three. Like the Cards, the Dodgers are traditionally good, so it isn’t because of tanking and drafting early.
Albert was the Cards’ last Rookie of the Year and before that, you have go all the way back to Vince Coleman 34 years ago to find another.
And ever since Pujols left, many observers, myself included, felt the Cards lacked a superstar to lead the offense. They used some of that quantity to get a guy from the outside who could fill that role in Goldschmidt.February 22, 2019 at 11:26 am #82512
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The Cardinals have consistently produced major league results that aligned with their minor league performances. That’s all. Nothing fancy. But their minor league performances have frequently been discounted or dismissed outright by the national prospect raters, considerably more so than similar hitters and pitchers from other organizations.
Your comparison of Ian Happ vs. Harrison Bader a few years ago was spot on.
I agree wholeheartedly with this premise. One look at Adbert Alzolay going into last year vs. Ryan Helsley would indicate where the Cubs’ top prospect (!!) would sit in the Cardinals system, yet Alzolay was talked about as being near the top 100 and Helsley was nearly 5 or 6 prospect removed from various top 100 lists among the Cardinals prospects.February 22, 2019 at 1:00 pm #82516
Brian, but shouldn’t a system wide ranking include both quantity and quality?February 22, 2019 at 1:49 pm #82522
cc, that is a tough question and better posed to those who do the rankings, but I have to wonder if they don’t most focus on which toys are shiniest.
Pads, it seems premature to declare a winner between Alzolay and Helsley before either one has thrown a single pitch in the majors…February 22, 2019 at 2:52 pm #82531
Pads, it seems premature to declare a winner between Alzolay and Helsley before either one has thrown a single pitch in the majors…
Not to speak for Pads, but I don’t think that the point is that Helsley is clearly the better prospect…but that national prospect gurus declared that he was the WORSE prospect, despite similar ages and Ryan arguably having better results at the time. In such cases, it begs the question of “why the bias?” and it comes up frequently with Cardinals prospects, as Bob showed up above.February 22, 2019 at 2:59 pm #82534
I get it, but we don’t know yet if Alzolay won’t be the better major leaguer. That was my point. The jury is out on who will be right.February 22, 2019 at 3:06 pm #82535
“Brian, but shouldn’t a system wide ranking include both quantity and quality?”
Quite so, CC. The Angels have enjoyed seven years of the greatest ballplayer since Mantle & Mays, and what has it gotten them? Four sub-.500 seasons and one playoff series, wherein they were swept.
Why? Because basically their farm has failed to give them enough good cheap depth. If their farm system could have simply filled in around Mike Trout, just routinely added league average or slightly above average hitters and pitchers, they’d at least have made the wildcard almost every year.
This should go without saying, but it’s a good idea for prospect rankers to not just glance at, but to look closely at every single member of every team’s farm system. And that’s obviously a lot of work — if you can call it “work” to do anything related to baseball research. Anyway, 12 months ago I examined over 1,000 minor league position players and checked the Davenport Translations for each, to see if there were some well-projected but obscure prospects I’d never heard of.
I won’t bore you with the methodology right here, but in total 157 players projected as useful big leaguers, guys who might be starters for a year or two but would more likely be solid bench pieces at their peaks. Another 63 projected as everyday regulars, and 24 as stars and superstars in their primes.
So across all of baseball that was 244 total “meaningful” position player prospects. Therefore, with 30 MLB franchises the average organization would have about 8 such guys. Well, the Cards led with 20, Tampa was second with 16, then the Yanks with 14 and Phils with 13. But that’s the quantity argument of things. Let’s look at quality.
Of the 87 regulars-or-better as projected by Davenport’s computer model, the Cards had 8 and Tampa and the Phillies had 7 apiece. Those were the three best totals in baseball. And which two teams in 2018 led their leagues in rookie position player WAR? That’s right, the Redbirds and Rays.
Brian’s right that the national voices overly focus, even fixate on the shiniest toys. They get hypnotized by top talent and forget that depth is not just a good thing, not just a cute convenience. It’s often a great thing — in part because you need depth guys to fill in around your stars…but also because if you have half a dozen prospects who project to be 2-WAR regulars, the odds say that one or two will bust, but also that one or two will actually be better than projected. You might even get a 4-5 WAR star out of the group, as the Cards got from Matt Carpenter and may get from DeJong, Bader, or both. Not infrequently, the weed of quantity bears sweet quality.March 7, 2019 at 2:30 pm #83475
Originally posted by Cardinals27 on another thread….
Milb ranks Cards farm system 12th. Perhaps a little higher than most analysts.
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